The BugLady visited Riveredge Nature Center recently looking for adventure, and she found it even before she hit the trails. A dozen or so mining bees were flying around over a dirt bank near a bench – they were either nesting there or thinking about it (she came back a week later, and nesting was well-established). Mining bees are solitary, ground-nesting bees in the family Andrenidae, a large family with about 3,000 species, almost half of which are in the genus Andrena (there are 450 Andrenas in North America).
The leaves are starting to fall here in God’s Country, the birds are moving, and as of yesterday it’s officially autumn (Yikes!). But there are still some bugs out there – like wildflowers, some species of insects bloom in the spring, some in the summer, and others in the fall. The imperative to reproduce is strong as the days get shorter; most insects live for about a calendar year, mainly in their immature stages, with a short-but-productive adult stage. Most leave behind eggs or pupae or partly-grown offspring to weather the winter.
The summer of 2018 saw an encouraging number of sightings of Rusty-patched bumble bees in southeastern Wisconsin – encouraging because the Rusty-patched bumble bee is on the Federal Endangered Species list, and also because there seem to be a growing number of people who are aware of the bee and are looking for it. We depend on bumble bees for a variety of ecosystem services, and they are considered by some to be a “keystone species”.
The BugLady is spending as much time as she can in the field (and the rest of it editing pictures) because, you know, the Summer Solstice has passed, and a little wave of warblers moved through her yard the other day, and winter is coming. Many of these beauties have already starred in their own BOTW. In a nutshell – there’s a whole lot of romance in the air.
The BugLady has been out enjoying the spring warbler migration, and as she searches the branches for birds, she’s also loving the soundtrack – the echo of Wood Thrushes and the buzz of early bumblebees. She wrote this episode ten years ago, and then in 2014, she “Celebrated Bumblebees.” Here’s an updated version of the 2008 episode – some new words, all new pictures
‘Tis the Season for the annual Twelve Bugs of Christmas – a baker’s dozen, actually, of oddities (and wonders) that the BugLady found during the year. Let Heaven and Nature sing!
Somewhere in a remote corner of Southeast Asia, in the neighborhood of 34 million years ago, a small bee originated that would change the course of the world.
Today, we call them honey bees (two words, not one). There are seven species in the genus Apis (family Apidae), and their family tree is complicated.
The goldenrods in the BugLady’s field are exuberant, with new, brilliant yellow flowers opening daily. Goldenrod blooms late, produces a bonanza of pollen (there’s not much nectar there), and is the embodiment of the insect enthusiast’s credo—“Looking for insects? Check the flowers.”
Lately, The BugLady’s been thinking about prairies. She led a walk at Riveredge Nature Center’s excellent “Knee Deep in Prairies” celebration, and she spends a lot of quality time on the prairie because she loves its ever-changing palettes and patterns. By some estimates, the biomass of the insects on pre-settlement American prairies equaled that of the bison. Here are some pollinators and predators and plant feeders of the prairie – and the flowers they visit.
If the first rule of looking for insects is “check the flowers,” then wild geraniums(Geranium maculatum) are the flower to watch right now. Insects perceive UV light differently than we do, and the transparent veins that lead them across the petals to the payload at the center of the flower (they’re called “nectar guides”) are far more conspicuous to them.